Yorkton Council took its first public look at its 2014 Budget, and there are tax increases coming from both the operating and capital sides of the ledger.
Lonnie Kaal, Director of Finance told the regular Committee of the Whole meeting of Council Monday the total increase in taxes would be 5.5 per cent, with one per cent of the increase coming from operations, and the remaining 4.5 per cent from capital.
“Operating Costs are increasing more than Consumer Price Index given rising fuel, contract and labour costs. When applying tax growth and increased grants to the operating budget, a 1.0 per cent tax increase is required,” detailed the report circulated to Council.
“The Capital Budget requires additional dollars to improve the state of the City’s assets, namely streets, drainage and facilities. The capital budget
requires a 4.5 per cent tax increase.”
The increases come in addition to a $1,256,000 increase in revenue expected in 2014 from growth in tax revenue, crown surcharge revenue and municipal operating grants.
On the operating side many of the cost increases are a result of community growth, offered Kaal.
Operational costs for 2014 will see an additional $120,000 cost for a previously approved addition to the municipal RCMP force. The new position will mean 28 officers, said Kaal.
“As our City grows there are more kilometres of streets to maintain and additional acres of grass to cut,” said Kaal, adding the extra work comes with a cost increase of $292,000, including $150,000 for additional snow removal costs.
On the capital side Kaal said infrastructure repair and renewal projects require additional dollars, with the $864,000 increase amounting to 20 per cent more investment than in 2013.
The capital budget requires additional dollars to upgrade and replace existing worn out assets. Capital Projects requiring tax dollars of $3,580,000 are proposed in 2014. This represents an increase of $784,000 over last year but given the major projects coming forward, the capital budget has to be increased, outlined the written report.
Kaal said the situation is one where there is “an infrastructure gap,” adding “this budget provides significant extra dollars” to help close that gap.
It’s a case of needing more dollars “to look after the assets we have … so that they don’t crumble,” she continued.
Continuing work of the City’s long term drainage plan will soak up the majority of the new capital dollars in 2014.
Significant dollars have been allocated to drainage in recent years and the costs continue. In 2014 almost half the entire capital budget has been allocated to drainage ponds, channels, ditches and culverts.
By the time the current phase of the plan is completed in 2015, the City will be looking at borrowing $10 million to cover the costs, detailed the written report.
Other major capital projects include an upgrade of the Highway #9 and Hamilton Drive intersection at $485,000, pre-design of a Broadway Street reconstruction at $850,000, pre-design of a new Public Works building at $540,000 and Orkney Bridge repair and culverts under Highway #9 at $400,000.
Mayor Bob Maloney said the additional capital dollars are needed, adding “it’s been a long term commitment of Council,” through the Mayorships of Chris Wyatt, James Wilson, and now himself, to address infrastructure shortfalls. “We need to invest the money to look after the infrastructure … It’s something we can’t avoid.”
The 5.5 per cent tax increase will mean an average home in Yorkton currently assessed at $200,000 will pay an additional $72 a year in taxes, said Kaal.
Residents are also going to see other cost increases in 2014.
The Landfill and Refuse Collection budgets require an 18.5 per cent increase in revenue to be self sufficient. This increase is a reflection of actual tonnage of residential garbage entering the landfill, detailed the report. The increase for a residential property will be $1.65 per month.
The Waterworks Utility expenditures have increased 4.3 per cent , due to increases in rental rates of equipment. This increase is partially offset by growth in revenues. A bylaw representing a 3.0 per cent water/sewer rate increase will be forthcoming, continued the report.
With the proposed rates based on 5,500 gallons per month consumption for a typical household, the monthly bill will increase to $74.95/month from $72.72/month or 2.23/month increase.
While Monday’s look at the budget was the first in front of public eyes, Kaal said there have been a number of internal administrative meetings, as well as “strategic meetings with Council,” leading up to the release Monday.
“There’s a lot of due diligence put into it.”
Although Councillor James Wilson echoed the Mayor’s support for the budget and its increases, he asked how the public might best get a closer look at the overall budget?
“We can put what we have here on the web (www.cityofyorkton.ca) now,” suggested Kaal.
With that Wilson moved to table the budget until the Nov. 4 meeting of Council. The motion carried, with Wyatt, Maloney and Coun. Ross Fisher opposed.
The tabling motion closed debate on the budget, but does afford the public two weeks to provide feedback.